Sunday morning I got up early, and while Calvin and Michael were off shooting at innocent lizards and dead cacti in the desert, I started to clean up the house. Bug carcasses abounded, but fortunately it seems that the infestation has ceased. I vacuumed. I mopped. I gagged. I mean, ew. We had to wipe down every surface in the house because of the poison we fogged with the day before. But now we have a very clean, sparkly, bug-free house.
I didn’t sit down the entire day. After we got done cleaning, I had to cook up a storm. I made:
- Potato salad
- Pasta salad
- Veggie platter
- Two kinds of dip for the chips and veggies, plus salsa
- Twenty sandwiches – roast beef, salami, and ham
- Deviled eggs
In the end we had plenty of food, because Calvin’s youngest sister did not show up, with her hubby and four kids. Folks started arriving at 4:00, and in the end we all just hung around and chatted. Michael was hugged five hundred times if he was hugged once. I dodged Calvin’s grandfather’s repeated attempts to get a kiss from me (“Oh, you’re such a sweet thing!”) and did mess control on the paper plates and napkins. Calvin and his other sister sat and discussed life, the universe, and X(f)’s most recent shocking behavior.
It was all very low key and pleasant. Calvin’s family is great, and always fun to hang out with. Everybody started wrapping it up early. By 7:00, after many weepy goodbye’s, it was just Calvin, Michael, and me (Marie had gone to a teen function). The house was finally very, very quiet.
That’s when things got difficult.
Michael got very quiet, just kind of wandering around the house, or staring blankly at the TV. I caught one expression on his face and had to bury my face in Calvin’s shoulder. He looked so worried. Michael saw the look on my face as Calvin hugged me, and he came over and we all hugged. I clung to Michael and said “This is so hard, baby. This is so hard.” He just patted my back and insisted that everything would be great. Calvin teared up too, and it was pretty much that way all night long. My eyes would meet Calvin’s, and we’d both start crying all over again.
At one point Michael’s staff sergeant called to go over the next day’s arrangements to fly out. Michael sounded so adult on the phone, with his “Hello, Staff Sergeant! Yes, sir!” that Calvin and I grinned to hear him. I looked at Calvin and said “You did such a good job.”
Calvin burst into tears. He just *sobbed*. I held him and rubbed his back, and said “You have to let him grow up sometime.” “No I don’t!” he wailed. Michael came into our room at that point and I just kind of pushed Calvin toward him. “You’re dad’s having a really hard time with this. We both are.”
So it was Michael’s turn to comfort his father, and that moment struck me profoundly. So many times I’ve watched Calvin hug Michael as he cried, and now it was the other way around.
Suffice to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house on Sunday.
We spent a lot of time talking with Michael, about how proud of him we are, and how wonderful this opportunity is for him. He’s pretty well adjusted to the whole thing, and was looking forward to his ship out with more excitement than trepidation. Calvin took Michael for one last ride on the motorcycle (going a very illegal speed on the highway), and we spent the rest of the evening jamming tunes or watching TV. Calvin and I went to bed, and talked for a long time before finally going to sleep.
We got up the next morning at 4:30 to see Michael off. Calvin and I both took the day off, because Michael didn’t know exactly when his flight was. We planned to meet him at the airport, since he had some administrative stuff to do with the Staff Sergeant beforehand. The SS showed up at about 5:30, and we stood in the doorway and waived as they got in the car and drove away.
Calvin, Marie and I were a very subdued bunch at that point. Michael called at about 10:00 and gave us his flight information, and we planned to meet him at about 2:00 at the gate.
Marie had not been talking much at all up to this point. We knew she was upset, but she was really internalizing everything. Sometimes Calvin and I forget just how close Marie and Michael really are. We found out later that she stayed up all night, crying and writing Michael a five page letter to read on the airplane. She finally fell asleep with Michael’s picture clutched in her hand.
X(f) arrived at the airport to see Michael off as well. A recent falling-out between the two of them caused Michael to decide to spend all of his remaining time before shipping out with us, so his departure was the first time she’d seen him in a couple of weeks. It wasn’t a comfortable experience. Not that anything negative happened, but neither kid felt comfortable around her. Conversation with her was stilted, and she just kind of hovered. At first I thought maybe I should tone down my behavior toward Calvin and the kids – when we’re all together we act like the family we are, with jokes and affection. Then I made up my mind to just behave normally, and to hell with how it made X(f) feel. If it bothered her to see Michael request a shoulder rub from me, or Marie grab onto my hand as we stood to say our final goodbyes to Michael, so be it. She brought her current relationship with the kids upon herself with her own behavior. I’ll be damned if I’ll feel guilty because the kids care about me.
So we hung out at the gate for the last hour or so before Michael’s flight. We talked and joked and took pictures. We met some of the other recruits flying out with him, too. I felt so bad for some of the poor young men who had no family seeing them off. I couldn’t imagine *not* wanting to see Michael off.
I was doing pretty well up until Michael’s seat assignment was called. We all stood up and hugged him, and I almost lost it when it was Marie’s turn. She sobbed into the front of his shirt and held on for dear life. He stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head. She thrust an envelope containing her letter at him, and said “Please, read this on the plane. Please.” He turned with one last round of “I love you”‘s, and then he was gone.
We all took turns hugging Marie and comforting her, then headed back toward our cars. We managed to part ways with X(f) with a surprising lack of drama.
We decided that some comfort food was in order, so we went to Joe’s Crab Shack for an early dinner. Marie continued to brighten as time went on, and soon we were laughing and joking again. Every now and then we’d sober up for a minute – Michael’s absence from the table was glaring. But we were all feeling quite a bit better when we got home again.
We all had the exact same thought, and without discussing it, we all headed to Michael’s room. We sat together on his bed and looked through his “History of the Marines” book. We listened to his stereo and talked for over an hour. At one point Michael called to tell us he’d arrived in San Diego safely, but could only talk for three minutes before he’d be forced to go. And that’s the only voice contact we’d be allowed for the next three months (he’s allowed to write, though). So we all said a rushed “I love you” to him, and he hung up. I was reassured because he sounded glad and excited on the phone, though not happy that he wouldn’t be allowed to go to sleep for the next 36 hours. I called X(f) to let her know we’d heard from him.
Calvin, Marie and I stayed within feet of each other for the rest of the night, drawing comfort from the closeness we share. We talked and talked and talked. We are one of the most communicative families I’ve ever known. No more tears were shed, as we finally came to terms with Michael’s departure. Not that we don’t and won’t miss him, but the progression of life into adulthood is a positive one, and we’re all very proud of him.
So he’s off, and having much less difficulty coping with his separation from us than *we* are. He’ll apparently be unable to call us while he’s there, but he will be able to write letters. Calvin and I woke up this morning and both said “I wonder how Michael’s doing” – knee deep into it, probably. He told us in his (brief!) “I got here safe” phone call yesterday that they’re not allowing him to sleep for the first 36 hours he’s there. He got up at 4:00 in the morning on Monday, and won’t sleep again until 10:00 Tuesday night. Damn, they don’t waste any time with the sleep deprivation thing.